Friends, family remember Matthew Figgie, 52, at Gilmour Academy service

September 4, 2018

Friends, family remember Matthew Figgie, 52, at Gilmour Academy service

GATES MILLS, Ohio -- More than 750 people attended a memorial service Aug. 31 in the athletic center at Gilmour Academy to remember and honor Matthew Figgie, 52, who had died suddenly six days earlier.

Friends and family members recalled the life of the Gilmour graduate and Gates Mills resident, who set numerous school athletic records; went on to found Figgie Capital; served as chairman of Clark-Reliance, the Figgie Foundation and the Fairmount Center for the Arts; and was a generous benefactor to his high school.

“Matthew Figgie was a loyal and proud Gilmour Academy alumnus,” said Gilmour Head of School Kathy Kenny. “He was generous in so many ways and was always looking for ways to elevate the school he loved.

“His support of everything from art to athletics was transformational, and we are so grateful. Matthew’s legacy will certainly live on and the impact of his generosity will be felt by generations of Gilmour students,” Kenny said.

In December 2016, the 1984 Gilmour graduate donated 10 Steinway & Sons grand pianos to his alma mater at a cost of nearly $1 million. The gift made Gilmour one of only eight Steinway Select K-12 Schools in the country, and the first in the Midwest.

In May of this year, Figgie donated $1 million for a new synthetic playing surface for Gilmour’s baseball field, known as Figgie Field. At that ceremonial ribbon-cutting, Figgie talked about working on Wall Street, which he termed “the greed capital of the world.”

Since that experience, he said, “Everything I do has to be for others.”

At the May ceremony, Figgie told of plans to donate another $2 million to $3 million to further upgrade the baseball field with a grandstand, concession stand, in-ground dugouts and scoreboard. He also spoke of plans to make improvements to the school’s football field, possibly adding lights.

Figgie excelled at football, serving as Gilmour’s quarterback, and basketball. But it was on the baseball field that he set school records that still stand.

The three-year letter winner set season standards for highest batting average  (.587) and stolen bases (57). He set career marks with 170 stolen bases and a .729 on-base percentage.

He was Gilmour’s Man of the Year in 1984 and, five years later, was inducted into the school’s hall of fame. He went on to play baseball at the University of Virginia, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance and human resources.

Close to his heart was the Figgie Foundation, whose mission is to support those in need. It has contributed to more than 100 organizations, including Coats for Kids and St. Christopher’s by-the-River Episcopal Church.

Figgie Capital is a highly diversified financial and investment entity that sprang from Figgie’s time working on Wall Street. It encompasses global asset allocation, alternative investments, currency and commodity trading, venture capital, economic forecasting, and mergers and acquisitions.

Clark-Reliance, of Strongsville -- awarded The Plain Dealer’s Top Workplaces Award for the past nine years -- is a global, multi-divisional manufacturing company with sales in more than 80 countries. It serves the power generation, petroleum, refining and chemical processing industries.

Clark-Reliance President and CEO Rick Solon first met Figgie when the two were boys in the early 1970s.

“He was the most generous soul I ever met,” Solon said of his friend. “If you were in his presence for just 15 minutes, you were his friend.

“He was an accomplished businessman, a philanthropist, a loving father and family man. He was an incredible, giving soul, and we’re in desperate need of those today,” Solon said.

A winner of the Pillar Award for Philanthropy, Figgie was also the recipient of the Smart Business Smart 50 Award in 2017 and 2018, which recognizes the top executives of the top 50 smartest companies in the region for their ability to effectively build and lead successful organizations.

Figgie is survived by his former spouse of 17 years, Betsy Vuillemot-Figgie; his daughter, Madeline; his brother, Mark Figgie; and six nieces and nephews.

He is preceded in death by his father, Harry E. Figgie Jr., who died at age 85 in 2009, and mother, Nancy Furst Figgie, who was 90 when she died in 2017.

Harry Figgie founded Figgie International, which grossed up to $1.5 billion per year and at one time owned Rawlings Sporting Goods. Nancy Figgie founded the Figgie Foundation.

Matthew Figgie was buried in a private ceremony Aug. 30. Figgie’s daughter requests that donations in her father’s memory be made to either University Hospitals Transplant Institute, in care of University Hospitals Institutional Relations and Development, P.O. Box 94554 Cleveland, Ohio 44101-4554, or, in recognition of her father’s love for animals, to Rescue Village, 15463 Chillicothe Road, Novelty, Ohio 44072.

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